MARKET UPDATE: FIRST QUARTER 2018
The first quarter was a wake-up call to all investors enjoying an extended period of higher stock prices, low volatility, and stable low interest rates. After multiple record setting stock market highs in January, the long awaited market correction became a February reality as stock prices fell 10% from their all-time highs. March provided additional price volatility as the market was left to negotiate a sea of cross currents.
Despite all the noise and heightened anxiety, markets were down but not out in the first quarter. The Dow Jones Industrial Average, enduring two 1,000 point plunges, lost 2.5 % for the three month period. The S&P 500 fell 1.2% for its first quarterly loss since 2015 and the Nasdaq Composite rose 2.3%.
The economic and political issues surfacing in the first quarter will continue to impact markets into and beyond the second quarter. The passage of corporate and personal tax cuts will provide fiscal stimulus to the economy. Simultaneously, the Federal Reserve is tapping the economic brakes by tightening monetary policy. The debate is whether there will be three or four rate hikes this year. The Fed raised the benchmark fed funds rate by a quarter percentage point in March.
The talk of tariffs and trade wars has the market on edge, adding to investor uncertainty. Quarterly corporate earnings releases begin now in mid-April. This round will be especially important as the market begins to reassess 2018 earnings estimates. The FAANG stocks, (Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Google-Alphabet), have provided long-term leadership to the stock market, and now these stocks are being stress tested. Geo-political risk is a constant worry, but tensions here are currently running high. Bottom line: expect market volatility to remain elevated.
Stay patient, stay positive, stay invested.
COPING WITH MARKET VOLATILITY
Market volatility plays a big role in the performance of investments over time. And while you can’t control market volatility, there are actions you can take to help minimize its impact on your retirement.
Consider these five steps:
- Know your long-term goal – you need a long-term, disciplined plan for saving and investing so you can draw from your savings throughout your retirement.
- Stick to your plan – nobody can predict when the market will have its best days, so it’s also important to stay the course.
- Consider asset allocation – this can be an important investment strategy. It involves dividing your contributions among a mix of different asset classes. Right allocation depends on your comfort level with risk and your time to retirement.
- Diversification – is the process of spreading your money among different investment options from a variety of asset classes.
- Rebalance regularly – because over time, your asset allocation can change as some investments grow more than others.
BIPARTISAN BUDGET ACT OF 2018 (H.R. 1892)
Several provisions in H.R. 1892 that affect the retirement industry include:
- Removal of six-month prohibition on contributions to retirement plans after a hardship withdrawal.
- Allow QNECs, QMACs and profit-sharing contributions to be included in a hardship withdrawal.
- Remove the requirement to take a loan before taking a hardship withdrawal.
These revised regulations will apply to plan years after December 31, 2018.
RETIREMENT ENHANCEMENT AND SAVINGS ACT OF 2018 (RESA)
This measure has been re-introduced in March by the Senate Finance Chairman and currently has broad bipartisan support. RESA is a bundle of small changes that are aimed at increasing voluntary retirement savings, such as:
- Broadening access to potentially low-cost Multiple Employer Plans (MEPs) by relaxing some of the more current stringent requirements.
- Offer increased financial incentives to start new plans and additional incentives for auto-enrollment.
- Require that benefit statements include estimates of lifetime income at least once a year; and it directs the Department of labor to develop a model for constructing income estimates.
- Provides fiduciaries a safe harbor for the selection of a lifetime income provider.
- Improve portability of lifetime income options from one plan to another so participants could preserve these options and avoid surrender charges and fees.
Phone: (212) 675-9360 OR (732) 583-1313 April 2018